Inaugural CHMC of the Year Winner, Susannah Lindsay speaks about being chartered

IBM’s Susannah Lindsay is the winner of the inaugural Chartered Management Consultant of the Year. As you might expect, she is one of the keenest advocates Chartered could ever have.

She was one of the first management consultants to become Chartered and it helped equip her to take on the challenge that led to the accolade she received at the MCA awards. Susannah said:

“Part of the reason for going for Chartered was wanting to be one of the first. I was in one of the first cohorts at IBM and I wanted to be one of the pioneers. But perhaps the main reason was that there are well-defined career patterns for other professions within the industry. Architects, project managers etc can get qualifications which are industry standard. I always felt it was difficult for me to describe myself as a consultant, as a generalist, a “jack of all trades”.”

Which was really playing down my strengths and fuelling my imposter syndrome. I wanted the credibility of being a chartered management consultant so that colleagues and clients had an idea of my skills, tradecraft, and the value I could bring”.

With a Masters in Physics and Astronomy, she joined IBM as a developer writing code.

Susannah said: “I enjoyed talking to people and solving human problems more than I enjoyed doing the coding itself. Talking to people and solving their problems was what made me want to get out of bed in the morning.”

She is now one of IBM’s leading consultants after spending almost a decade at the firm. The project for which she won her MCA award was one which others were less than keen to handle.

Susannah said: “We had two c-suite client stakeholders who had very different expectations and a team spread across the globe who had endured a very difficult six months prior. Then Covid hit a few weeks after I took over. So, I had to deal with all the personal impacts that had on the team going back to home villages in India and worrying about family and kids at home.”

She immediately saw her key challenge.

She said: “Initially it was getting people to trust me. I had two client stakeholders who needed to trust me while not agreeing with each other and still believing I could find the path through the middle. Also getting the team to believe that not only could they trust me to protect them and to steer the project but also to believe in themselves. I knew they could succeed but they had started to believe they couldn’t do it because they had been told they couldn’t do it so many times.”People were the solution but also the problem initially.

She said: “The way I tackled that initially was through complete transparency.

“Whilst it was a traditional SAP project, we still plastered the walls in wireframes, Kanban boards and status updates – so when anybody wanted an update I could walk them through it on the wall. Anyone could join us any time if they had any questions and it really shortened the feedback loop.”

She put the problem and the people in context and that is one of the things she liked most about becoming chartered. It put her career, her profession, in context.

Susannah said:

“I really enjoyed the reflective nature of the submission; taking advantage of the time and space to reflect on my career journey. It helped me realise that as I progress, it’s important it is to me to keep working with clients as a consultant.”

“I would one hundred per cent recommend doing Chartered. Definitely. Especially for people like me who struggle with impostor syndrome – being able to walk into a room and describe yourself as a Chartered Management Consultant is a great feeling.”

And as someone who likes people, she has people she would like to thank.

“Chartership only exists in my firm because of a small number of people in IBM who took on the work to establish the award when it was new. I owe an awful lot to them, and to my coaches and mentors over the years.”